A sock is a sock, right? Oh contraire! Few issues prove as important to the keen hiker as the comfort of our feet when out and about. The most iconic and dynamic duo for the trail is a well-fitted boot (or shoe) and a pair of socks specific to your needs. A couple of years ago, had you asked me about what makes a good sock, I probably would have jokingly said the pattern. But the design of a good trail sock goes a lot further than funky graphics. There is a whole lot more going on in the fabrics of our favourite hiking apparel than we might realise.
Merino Wool - What is it?
We might think that a wool sock is only a necessary consideration for winter or cold weather walking but pairing the right socks with your summer kit will keep you and your feet happy on the hills. That’s where Merino wool socks come in. Merino wool is a fantastic, natural, and bio-degradable, material that is popular in the making of a variety of clothing products, particularly in the outdoors industry. It is odour-resistant and extremely soft to the touch. It works naturally to regulate temperatures by wicking away moisture when you warm up and retaining heat as things cool down. It is also used effectively in base layers and neck gators.
Technical Specifications of Merino Wool
A breathable blend of materials.
What to look for
When searching for outdoor gear, the top requirements that come to mind are waterproofing, breathability, weight, and durability. When it comes to socks, breathability and durability are most important. We want something that feels good and will endure many adventures to come.
Merino wool socks come in all sizes and styles depending on the activity you are pursuing. Choose from thick, heavy-weight socks for cold conditions, to mid and lightweight pairs for milder weather. You can also pick your pair based on height, with longer socks best suited for skiing or high-rise boots, all the way down to ankle socks for your next trail run.
Breathability and Comfort
There is little point in fancy waterproof boots if your feet are going to work up a sweat and get wet regardless! That’s why the breathability of your socks is an essential performance indicator to look for when choosing a pair. With a wide range to choose from depending on your desired fit, the intended activity, and the time of year. Oftentimes you will find women-specific models that will suit a narrower heel. Whether you are hiking in hot weather, running mountain terrain, or trekking through the snow, make sure to match the thickness and warmth rating of the sock with the temperatures you expect to experience. While the blend of merino wool and synthetic fibres allows these socks to temperature regulate quite effectively, check to make sure you’re not grabbing a summer sock for winter weather!
Comfort is paramount when you’re moving for long periods of time. Both the Smartwool and Bridgedale merino wool range have reinforced, padded material in the ‘high-wear zones’ such as the heel area and ball of the foot. This allows for increased durability and great cushioning for your feet. On top of this, they boast reduced friction and blister technology as part of their make-up, meaning you can stay out doing what you love for longer.
Merino wool is one of those wonder materials, you can find all sorts of products with a blend of this wool. Once you’ve tried it out, it really is hard to go back! We have had many a customer approach us in-store raving about their merino gear after years of usage. From breathable, odour-resistant ski insulation, to peace of mind on a long hike, merino wool products really are the old reliable.
By AnnaMai McDermott